File No. 763.72111/1577
The British Ambassador (Spring Rice) to the Secretary of State
Dear Mr. Secretary: I spoke to you to-day about the state of public opinion in England and the tendency which is beginning to make itself felt to ascribe to the American Government and Congress an attitude of partiality in the present war and of hostility to Great Britain. I do not say that the feeling is justified or that it has so far found open expression to a large extent. But from what I hear I fear there is little doubt that the impression is beginning to prevail that Great Britain is in fact the only belligerent to whom the United States Government has been so far unfavourable. What appears to be felt in England now is that, while Germany deliberately planned a war of pure aggression, has occupied and devastated large districts in Russia, Belgium and France, inflicting great misery and wrong on innocent populations, the only act on record on the part of the United States is a protest singling out Great Britain as the only power whose conduct is worthy of reproach.
The following facts are taken to be indicative of the general attitude of Government and Congress:
- Soon after the war broke out the United States Government issued an order prohibiting the publication of manifests, with the apparent object, or at any rate with the effect, of making it more difficult to trace and seize contraband.
- An American banking house was prevented from issuing a loan to one of the Allies.
- Although Japan during the war with Russia had been allowed to import finished parts of submarines made in the United States and though the best advice was to the effect that such an export was legal, yet the United States Government prohibited the export to Great Britain of parts of submarines less finished than in the case of Japan. Whatever the cause the impression remains that there was discrimination.
- The United States Government is using every possible means to secure the passage of a bill through Congress which would authorise the purchase of the ships now interned as a consequence of war. We are being pressed to recognise the purchase and transfer of German merchant vessels to the United States flag under conditions which are far more liberal than those allowed by the German regulations. If these purchases are made it is evident that the German shipping lines, which are practically Government institutions, will be enabled to sell for advantageous prices to the United States Government their ships now useless to them and a cause of barren expenditure, and thus to acquire credits for use during the war, by drawing on American funds. It is even urged openly and apparently with the consent of members of the Government, that these ships when purchased should be used in furtherance of the commercial interests of Germany under the protection of the American flag. It is not to be wondered at that, although some time ago German commercial circles, especially shipping circles, were urging peace on the German Government, they have now ceased to do so.
- United States Congress has now before its committee a bill which is supported by the united pressure of the German societies, organised throughout the United States, and by the German members of Congress under the open direction of the German Ambassador to do what has never been done in any previous war and is absolutely contrary to American precedent, namely to put an embargo on the export of munitions of war. There can be no question, indeed there is none, that such a measure would work to the advantage of the power which had prepared for war and to the disadvantage of those who, like us, had not prepared for it. But the United States Government has taken no public steps to discourage it.
I do not of course say that these alleged facts are correctly stated or that the accusations are borne out by the facts but, from what I hear, my Government is much impressed by the effect caused in England by the circulation in the press of the statements which I have just repeated. And I may add that the conclusion which seems to be drawn by a powerful and growing section of public opinion is as follows:
At the beginning of the war there was no doubt, they think, a distinct and purely. American sentiment which was stirred by the wrong done to Belgium and which thought that England, which was also stirred by that wrong, did right and not wrong in going into [Page 779] the war to prevent that wrong. This feeling was no doubt both genuine and widespread and was founded rather on ideals of conduct than on race history or language. But now a different feeling is coming into prominence and that is a feeling founded on race sympathies and the organisation as a separate and independent force in the heart of the American people of a body of men linked together by joint sympathies of blood and lineage and bound by those ties to one of the belligerents. This force is working here in America, as everywhere else, in order to compass by any and every means the success in Europe of the German cause. It aims at making in one way or another its influence felt in the press, in business, and in every branch of the Government. Upon its action and upon the success which has attended it so far Germany founds hopes that the attitude of the United States Government will be increasingly disadvantageous to the Allies, and, as it is now evident, more especially to Great Britain. Prospects are held out that the United States, on whom as on all other neutrals the indirect consequences of the war in some ways bear hardly, will cut off the supplies of munitions of war, of which the Allies are in need, and at the same time insist that the door be kept open for supplies of contraband to Germany with the object of bringing the war to an end by the complete victory of the latter.
There seems to be an impression in Europe that there is a distinct danger that the United States Government, acting under the pressure of a body of voters organised exclusively in a foreign and non-American interest, may insensibly drift into such a policy. If this apprehension is realised then there can be no hope of a speedy conclusion of the war. For there could then be no hope that Germany would relax her hold on Belgium, and Great Britain cannot abandon the hope of the restoration of Belgian independence unless and until she has exhausted all her resources and has herself shared Belgium’s fate. And even with the active cooperation of the United States enlisted on behalf of Germany it would be some time before such a conclusion is reached.
This is what people in England are beginning to feel, and although this feeling has not yet found widespread public expression, I understand that it is there and that it is growing. In the struggle for existence in which my country is at stake much store is set on the impartial good will of the United States, and on their absolute neutrality, and people cannot believe that the United States desire to paralyse the advantage which Great Britain derives from her sea power, while leaving intact to Germany those military and scientific advantages which are special to her.
Should people in England come to believe that the dominant influence in United States politics is not neutral but hostile there will, I fear, be a great and bitter disappointment, the effects of which will last beyond our generation.
This description may of course be exaggerated and the sentiment described may be without adequate justification. But after all a sentiment is a sort of a fact and it is one of the facts which it is the duty of all of us to take into consideration.
Yours very sincerely,